Why we should remove the label ‘psycho’ in relationships

We have all heard it before or said it ourselves. The term ‘psycho’ is casually used to demean and abject a person’s controlling and over-protective behaviour in a romantic relationship. In truth, I have said it before in this casual manner, but recently I have come to hold the opinion that actually I shouldn’t be saying the word at all. I argue that we should avoid using this term generally because of its origins linked to mental health. Yet I want to focus on the attribution of the term to relationships. Especially, if the person in question has mental health issues. Even more so, if their mental health was completely unrelated to the problems that did occur in the relationship.

Psycho, in itself, is an abbreviation for the word psychopath. Generally, a diagnosed psychopath is a person that lacks remorse and empathy. A diagnosed psychopath is a person who can easily manipulate and lie to others. In extreme cases, a diagnosed psychopath is a person who can easily murder another person. Of course, there are multi-dimensions as to the traits of a psychopath, and it simply cannot be summed up in a blog post. Furthermore, this post isn’t about diagnosing or trying to find out if a person you know is a psychopath.

I have seen numerous things on social media and merchandise where the word ‘psycho’ is used. Such as ‘cute but psycho’, no. Just no. Furthermore, have we not noticed how it is most likely always women are labelled as being ‘psychos’? The minute that we assert how we want to be treated, we are just instantly labelled. The amount of negative connotations surrounding women and their ‘uncontrollable emotions’ is because it is so ingrained in society. For example, female hysteria, in the Victorian era, was considered a medical disorder; where the ‘treatment’ was a forced hysterectomy.

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The fact that you can use the word ‘psycho’, considering its origins, to categorize another person’s actions is offensive. Truthfully, their behaviour is most likely far from that. Secondly, its offensive to anyone with a mental health problem, especially if your significant other does have a mental health problem. Using a term so casually, is belittling, and it is also adding to the negative stigma surrounding mental health in general.

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After a break up, it is easy to label and focus on the negative to ease the moving on process and determine why you weren’t right for that person. Therefore, you may make passing comments such as they were a ‘psycho girlfriend’ or ‘psycho boyfriend’ to sum up why it didn’t work out. This may usually mean that they were controlling, over-protective, clingy at times, maybe they wanted you all to themselves and found it hard when you saw your friends. This does not indicate that they are a psychopath, therefore are not deserving of the label. Rather, it shows that the relationship was perhaps toxic and unhealthy for both of you. Even more so, have you considered as to why they acted this way. Did they have trust issues? Due to past sexual, platonic and familial relationships. Or have you ever acted in a way that has made them not trust you. Everyone makes mistakes, but you have to reassure and show that you won’t hurt them again. Equally, you have to tell them that this behaviour is not contributing to a positive and healthy relationship.

More importantly, using the term ‘psycho’ so casually dulls down the signs of when a relationship is actually emotionally and physically abusive. For example, when they prevent you from enjoying your daily life. Physically stopping you from seeing your friends, family and going to work. Enacting violent actions towards you and violent behaviour around you. Hurling emotional abuse at you, to the point where you feel so degraded that you prevent yourself from leaving your home. This could be an indication of psychotic behaviour, but this is also domestic violence. Helplines for domestic violence refuge and those suffering with a mental health problem are below.

UK National Domestic Violence Hotline: 0808 2000 247

NHS information of all the best mental health hotlines for your condition:



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